31 reasons why David Moyes has to go
Published 26/03/2014 | 14:50
If Manchester United decide to terminate David Moyes’contract, here are 31 possible reasons.
This season Manchester United, the reigning Premier League champions and third richest club in the world are seventh in the Premier League, their lowest placing for 24 years.
They have been eliminated from the FA Cup by Swansea City, who have never won the FA Cup and have been eliminated from the Capital One Cup by Sunderland, who have never won the League Cup.
In simple terms, this is failure.
To reinforce the point:
On 26 March 2013 United had 74 points from 29 games and were 15 points clear at the top.
On 26 March 2014 United have 51 points from 31 games and are 18 points off the top.
51 points is their lowest total after 31 games in the Premier League era - indeed they have never previously had fewer than 60 at this stage.
United have fewer home points in the league than Norwich and Hull (21 points).
United have scored the same number of goals at home in the league as Cardiff and Fulham, the table's bottom two teams (18 goals).
Moyes has done marginally worse with the reigning champions than he managed with Everton last season:
Everton were expected to struggle post-Moyes, almost in the same way United might post-Ferguson. Instead the club has moved to a new level.
Under Roberto Martinez they have altered their style of play and have 57 points from 30 games, sitting above United in the league. In Moyes's last five seasons at the club they averaged 12 points fewer (51, 40, 40, 45, 48).
Ross Barkley's verdict was unintentionally damning: "He's similar to David Moyes as they both like to take over the training session and be the main man but Martinez is more tactical. We do a lot more tactical work which is good for me because I'm young and still learning."
United's limitations are well illustrated by these two images. As unfair as it may be to pick a single snapshot - and it goes without saying that different pictures could be presented by the case for Moyes's defence - they reflect the differing perceptions of Pep Guardiola's well-drilled Bayern Munich team and the Scot's one-dimensional United side.
Bayern Munich build an attack against Manchester City, with players in close contact and providing plenty of passing options for the man on the ball.
Rafael looks to start an attack for United against Fulham, with the nearest player 20 yards away.
In the 2-2 home draw against Fulham, pictured above, United became a laughing stock as they put in 81 crosses, to little effect with only 18 finding a team-mate. Fulham defender Dan Burn said he had "not headed that many balls since the Conference".
There has been a lack of variety and subtlety in United's play all season. Some have argued this is down to the squad he inherited from Ferguson, which was full of ageing players and lacking in quality. There may be an element of truth in that, but the disparate performances in the home matches against Liverpool this season and last night rebuff that assessment.
Last January United won deservedly 2-1 against their biggest rivals at Old Trafford, enjoying the majority of possession and having 15 shots on target. Ten days ago United, for whom 10 of the 14 players fielded had figured in last season's victory, were totally outplayed by Liverpool, managing one shot on target, their lowest in a home match for five years.
Moyes was comprehensively outcoached by his opposite number, Brendan Rodgers. Rodgers has transformed Liverpool in the past 18 months into a dynamic, cohesive unit with attacking full-backs, pace and mobility in attack and a versatile and tactically astute midfield. It is everything Moyes's United are not, as Gary Neville remarked last night after a very similar 3-0 defeat, to Manchester City: "They need to have a rethink about where they are going. There is no pace and power going forward. At this moment they have an identity crisis."
Some supporters have been perplexed by Moyes's reluctance to select one of the most creative players at his disposal, Shinji Kagawa. The Japanese international's former manager at Borussia Dortmund, Jurgen Klopp, was referring to Ferguson when he made the following comments last month, but they could have been uttered a few months later and been just as pertinent.
"Shinji Kagawa is one of the best players in the world and he now plays 20 minutes at Manchester United - on the left wing! My heart breaks. Central midfield is Shinji's best role. He's an offensive midfielder with one of the best noses for goal I ever saw."
Rarely has Moyes experimented with Kagawa there - last night he came on as a substitute on the right of midfield - prompting United fans to produce videos emphasising how redundant he is in this team setup.
United and Moyes had by common consensus a dreadful summer, being embarrassed in their pursuits of Cesc Fabregas, Cristiano Ronaldo, Leighton Baines, Fabio Coentrao and Ander Herrera, among others. So misjudged were they that they passed on the option to return to Moyes's old club, Everton, in July to buy Marouane Fellaini for his release clause value of £23m, and were then forced to pay £27.5m for him weeks later when other transfer targets fell through.
There is mitigation in that chief executive David Gill retired along with Sir Alex Ferguson last summer, and so Moyes was partnered in the market by the inexperienced Ed Woodward. But Moyes has actually spent £70m, on Fellaini and the club-record signing Juan Mata, as yet recouping no money, and has next to nothing to show for that outlay.
Fellaini, or "the Lampshade" as he is known by the crueller United fans, has certainly not brought value for money. He has made only 17 appearances and has failed to score or register an assist in those games. Anecdotally he slows down the play, needing three touches where rival midfielders would use one, and stymies any attempts to modernise United's brand of football. In fairness he does have one goal to his name this season - for Everton, against Stevenage.
It is too early to judge Mata, but his impact has been minimal so far and already the pundits who heralded him as a terrific signing are now wondering if, in fact, Jose Mourinho pulled off a masterstroke in selling him for such a large fee. He is yet to score in his nine games for United, and has had only one shot on target in those matches. Moyes paid £42.5m for the World Cup, European Championship and Champions League winner, and is certainly not extracting the best from him, frequently playing him wide rather than in his best position, No 10. The player looks horribly lost as he plays balls sideways all too often rather than being the creative spark he was in winning Chelsea's player of the year award in successive seasons.
The Glazers are willing to give the manager at least £100m to spend in the summer in the all-too-obvious knowledge that the squad needs an overhaul. But is Moyes the right man to spend this cash?
Leave aside Fellaini and Mata's performances thus far. Or the fact that the likes of Toni Kroos are unlikely to be clamouring to play for Moyes. Or that the 51-year-old has no experience of this kind of transfer budget. The evidence of his purchases at Everton count against him. When he did buy (relatively) big the players failed to perform as they had at their old club. The three most expensive strikers he signed all had low goals to games ratios, Yakubu, Andrew Johnson and James Beattie.
Time and again United have been humiliated this season by clubs they would expect to beat - certainly clubs they had not lost against for a long time, ending streaks which were decades long:
West Brom's 2-1 win in September was their first at Old Trafford since 1978. None of the Baggies squad that day were born when the club had lost won at United.
Everton inflicted huge embarrassment on their former manager when they won, 1-0, at Old Trafford in December for the first time since 1992.
Yohan Cabaye's goal for Newcastle in December gave them their first win at Old Trafford for 41 years.
The 2-1 defeat to Tottenham at Old Trafford was United's first loss on New Year's Day for 20 years.
Swansea recorded their first ever win at Old Trafford when they knocked United out of the FA Cup in January. Ferguson only lost in the third round once in 27 attempts.
Stoke's 2-1 win at the start of February was the first time they had beaten United since 1984.
The Champions League first-leg 2-0 defeat to Olympiakos was the first time ever that United had lost to a Greek team.
The 3-0 home defeat to Man City witnessed the first time United had conceded a goal in the first minute of a Premier League game at Old Trafford.
THE BIG GAMES
Until recent weeks it could have been argued that the lowest points of Moyes's reign had been the defeats to Sunderland and Swansea and the others listed above. But the consistently poor record against the Premier League's top teams, several inflicted in a painfully embarrassing manner, have done the most damage. The bare stats tell only half the story, but here they are (matches against Chelsea, Man City, Liverpool, Arsenal, Everton and Tottenham):
Played: 11 Won: 1 Drawn: 3 Lost: 7 DFor: 5 Against: 19 Points: 6
This is consistent with his dreadful record against the top clubs with Everton. An often trumpeted fact during his reign as Goodison Park was that he never won a league game at the Emirates, Stamford Bridge, Anfield or Old Trafford (the latter has been rectified now, although not as many times as United fans would like).
While Manchester United are still in the Champions League, following the come-from-behind victory over Olympiakos in the last 16, few people hold out much hope for them against the Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich in the quarter-finals. As Paul Hayward wrote following the draw last Friday: "For the first time in decades, gallows humour shapes United's response to a Champions League draw. Expectations are even lower than their league position."
Moyes's experience in European football is limited, his record with Everton reading:
2005-06: Champions League qualifying round defeat to Villarreal
2005-06: Uefa Cup first round defeat to Dinamo Bucharest
2006-07: Did not qualify
2007-08: Uefa Cup round of 16 defeat to Fiorentina
2008-09: Uefa Cup first round defeat to Standard Liege
2009-10: Europa League round of 32 defeat to Sporting Lisbon
2010-11: Did not qualify
2011-12: Did not qualify
2012-13: Did not qualify
Moyes has never won a major trophy in his managerial career (he did win the Scottish League with Celtic as a player, and the Second Division with Preston North End as a manager).
When Moyes first took the job he cast himself in Ferguson's shadow, talking about what a "big job" it was to be replacing the United legend, how "it would take time" for him to adapt, playing down expectations at every possible juncture since then and admitting more recently that he is baffled by United's woeful performances. Recently he even conceded Liverpool were favourites for the match at Old Trafford.
As Henry Winter wrote last night: "It certainly felt both an undeniable truth and an unwise frankness when Moyes remarked that United are 'aspiring to be like City'. Such comments signal the caution, even negativity, of the Moyes era that he should be fighting, not highlighting. He has to start behaving like a Manchester United manager, exuding defiance off the pitch and instilling width, pace and fearlessness on it."
Moyes did not help his cause by moving on all of Ferguson's backroom staff and surrounding himself with familiar faces. Dismissing the experience of Rene Meulensteen and Mick Phelan, among others, and replacing them with Steve Round, Phil Neville and co has left himself horribly exposed. Eric Steele, the discarded goalkeeping coach observed: "You had the United perspective - [Ferguson] saying, 'Keep what we've got, keep the continuity, work with them and they'll guide you through. You're taking on a massive machine here. You've gone from Marks and Spencer's to Harrods."
There have been reported fallouts with key players, vigorously denied by Moyes. To his credit he handled the Wayne Rooney contract standoff well last summer, but what is not debatable is that the senior players have not stood up for him - captain Nemanja Vidic is off to Internazionale, Patrice Evra is almost certainly returning to France at the end of the season, Rio Ferdinand is likely to become a full-time television pundit, Van Persie's future is shrouded in doubt, and Ryan Giggs has barely been seen on the pitch this year, not being picked for last night's derby despite his virtuoso display against Olympiakos.
That is a lot of knowhow that Moyes has failed to tap into.
The most trenchant defence for Moyes is that Ferguson struggled in his early seasons at United before becoming the most garlanded coach in English football history. "He must be given time."
But this is not 1986 - football has changed a tad in the intervening 28 years. Moyes inherited a squad that had faults but had won the league title, and joined a club that despite being saddled with debt has plenty of money to spend in the transfer market. He has handled himself with humility and decency during these arduous few months but even some of the loyal Old Trafford support has now turned.
While United may not be able to attract managers of the calibre of Jose Mourinho or Carlo Ancelotti as they might have done last summer, there are plenty of deserved candidates who would be interested in the job of reviving one of English football's great institutions. Klopp, who took Dortmund (wage bill lower than Queens Park Rangers) to the Champions League final last season, leads the betting at present.
Results are worsening, not improving.
There really is nothing to suggest that downward spiral is going to be reversed.